Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Take Control Of Your Health With Patient Education Handouts

By Patty Goff

You often see them at the health clinic or in the waiting room at your doctor's. They're those little booklets or pamphlets that you turn to when you've read all the interesting magazines. However, with patient education handouts you not only can pass the time but also learn how to take control of your health.

The handouts are there to explain certain health-related topics in an easy-to-understand way, without using the jargon that only medical professionals understand. They give you more information about the topic because during the consultation, you may not always remember to ask the right questions. Many of the materials are also available in other languages, such as Spanish, for those patients whose English may not be so good. Because they're free and also compact enough to fit into your pocket or your bag, you can take as many as you need.

Many pamphlets are related to living a healthy lifestyle and preventing illness. These days, most complaints that take people to the doctor, from gallstones to type 2 diabetes, are related to factors such as poor diet, smoking and drinking or not getting enough exercise. If you know, for instance, which foods to avoid and which to eat more of, you can reduce your risk of getting these conditions or, in some cases, even reverse the symptoms.

One of the most important developments in disease prevention has been vaccines. Most countries are now polio and smallpox free due to massive vaccination programs. You also need to have your child vaccinated against other communicable diseases, including measles and mumps. These diseases can have terrible consequences and not having your child vaccinated against them is irresponsible not only towards your family but towards the entire community. Pamphlets about vaccination will tell you more about how these vaccinations work and when to get them.

Some education handouts focus on a specific disease. This can be something as simple as the common cold or it can be about a more serious condition like tuberculosis or AIDS. The text and diagrams will explain the symptoms, the causes of the disease, how you can reduce the risk of getting it and what you can do to treat it or to alleviate the symptoms.

Sometimes there is an outbreak of a serious disease, for example bird flu or ebola. When this happens, there is a lot of misinformation about the disease and people often panic. However, spreading the correct information can allay fears, help people understand which symptoms to look out for and what they should do if they contract the disease. In this way, the outbreak can be tamed.

Some of the most useful patient educational materials are those that are about conditions that you may feel embarrassed about. If you find, for instance, that there is blood when you've been to the bathroom, you may not want to discuss this with your doctor. Sometimes it can be a serious condition and if you can read up about it first, you'll know when to swallow your pride and tell your doctor about your symptoms.

Sometimes the materials are developed by companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals. Often, however, they're produced by a health council. Collect as many of these free materials as you can to make informed decisions about when you need to seek treatment.

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